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Christmas Around the World for Travelers

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Christmas tree, St Peter's square at the Vatican, Franco Origlia/AFP/Getty Images

Christmas tree, St Peter's square at the Vatican

© Franco Origlia/AFP/Getty Images

A Traveler's Christmas:

Christmas is celebrated around the world, as there are communities of Christians, or at least folks catering to Western tourists' traditions, everywhere. Some Christmas celebrations are ancient and rooted in pre-Christian tradition (and that's another Christmas story) and some are just Santa stuff -- check out a roundup of About.com's factoids to learn about Christmas celebrations and traditions in the part of the planet you're visiting (or to know that, if you're abroad alone and feeling homesick during this traditionally family-oriented holiday, you can probably find someone somewhere doing the Christmas thing):

Ireland and the UK:

About.com's Guide to the UK, Ferne Arfin, has put together a collection of great information about Christmas in the UK, London's Laura Porter has a cool Yule page on what to do in London at Christmas, and Bernd Beige has made a massive overall list of festive happenings during the Christmas season in Ireland. Check it all twice.

Italy:

Christmas in Italy is celebrated from Christmas Eve through Epiphany (January 6). The season is ushered in on the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, and your stocking will be filled by La Befana on the 12th day of Christmas. Learn more about Christmas in Italy from Martha Bakerjian, About.com's Guide to Italy.

France:

Christmas in France is a family affair, and Laura Lawless, About.com's French language expert, has a great roundup of typical homebound holiday happenings in France -- read up on Père Noël's plans for good French children (and Père Fouettard's for bad). In a Paris hostel? Perhaps no Peres will drop by, but you'll find festive fun candy-window-shopping on Place de la Madeleine, ooh-ing at holiday lights, riding the Tuileries Gardens' seasonal Ferris wheel, or cruising Christmas markets (find plenty o' Christmas markets elsewhere in France, too). Homesick? Hit the American Church for cookies and carols.

Germany:

Christmas markets have a long tradition and history in Germany, and About.com's Guide to Germany, Birge Amondson, has amassed some info on Christmas markets in Germany, including a list of just the most popular German Christmas markets, which you'll want to check out if you'll be decorating your Tannenbaum in Germany this year. About.com's Travel With Kids Guide, Teresa Plowright, explains the German Christmas market story, and Hyde Flippo, our German Language Guide, has put together viele links to German Christmas traditions.

Norway:

A goatish Norwegian elf sounds like a lot of fun to me -- naturally, that means it was outlawed sometime after the Vikings simmered down, according to Terry Mapes, About.com's Guide to Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and Sweden. (What is Scandinavia, anyway?). Today, a gnome or nisse will bring your gifts in Norway.

Learn more about Christmas in Norway, including the lye-treated codfish, potatoes, rice porridge and gingerbread you'll have for Christmas dinner.

Sweden:

Julbok, a goat which traditionally gave out presents in Sweden, may stuff your stocking if you're spending the holidays in Scandinavia, though these days it's more likely to be a Santa's helper called Jultomten. Read about red tulips and more Swedish Christmas celebration history from About.com's Guide to Scandinavia.

Greece:

Christmas in Greece is a holiday deeply steeped in ancient tradition. About.com's Guide to Greece, deTraci Regula, has written up some wonderful pieces on Christmas customs in Greece, including a photo gallery featuring shots of current celebrations in Athens.

Mexico:

One of my favorite parts of Suzanne Barbezat's description of Christmas posadas in Mexico is the mention of atole, which is one of our many favorite Mexican drinks (Mexican corn meal, soft Mexican cinnamon, piloncilla and vanilla). Read up on Mexico Christmas customs and, if you'll be in Mexico for the season, which extends through January and Three Kings Day, when children's presents are brought by the Reyes Magos (Magi): Feliz Navidad.

Africa:

Approximately 350 million Christians live on the continent of Africa, and Christmas is celebrated by some residents in every African country. About.com's Guide to Africa, Anouk Zijlma, has all the info on Christmas in Africa; Anouk writes, "On Christmas day, carols are sung from the Congo on down to South Africa." Cool tip on giving a goat as a gift, too.

Asia:

Christmas is celebrated for and by Western tourists and residents in lots o' spots in Asia, like hippie haven Goa and former British colony Hong Kong; the commercial trappings of the season are evident in China at Christmas and About.com's Guide to China Sara Neumann says travelers can fairly easily find eggnog and gluewein, gingerbread men and lebkuchen if required for holiday spirit in homesick souls.

Australia

Christmas in Australia is a beachy affair -- everyone heads for the shore and a traditional Australian Christmas dinner, which used to be a lot like an English dinner but has become, often as not, a passel of shrimp and Balmain bugs (a kind of lobster) on the barbie for a cool Oz Yule. Check out Christmas in Australia from Larry Rivera, About.com's Guide to Australia and New Zealand, or the Australian government's version of Australia's Christmas celebrations and history.

Buon Natale, Frohe Weihnachten, Geseënde Kersfees... Merry Christmas, travelers.

"Isn't it funny that at Christmas something in you gets so lonely for - I don't know what exactly, but it's something that you don't mind so much not having at other times."
-- Kate L. Bosher

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